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Washington, DC, October 16, 2019 | comments

Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) released the following statement on committee passage of his bipartisan bill, H.R. 886 Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act of 2019, co-led by Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY). The legislation, which passed the House Judiciary Committee today by voice vote, is now cleared for consideration by the full House of Representatives.

“Pinellas and Pasco Counties have been blessed with a veterans treatment court program that offers life-saving and life-changing second chances to non-violent veterans caught in the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, many veterans live in communities where these options don’t exist,” said Congressman Crist. “The Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act will expand and bolster existing vet courts, while helping communities without one set up their own. I want to thank Chairman Nadler for his leadership moving this legislation, and we will continue the push to make this law.”

“It is incumbent on Congress to make sure our veterans receive the best possible treatment when they return home from serving our country,” said Congresswoman Stefanik. “Unfortunately, due to the stressors and psychological impact of their service, some veterans become entangled in the criminal justice system. This bill would give non-violent offenders a chance to rehabilitate themselves through a special program tailored to the unique needs of veterans. I’m grateful to the Judiciary Committee for their consideration and am proud to support our veterans in every way that I possibly can.”

Background on the Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act:
After serving our country, too many veterans are experiencing mental health issues, substance abuse, and homelessness, which can often land them in the criminal justice system. Veteran treatment courts provide the counseling, care, and support veterans need to help address these challenges and more successfully transition to civilian life.

The Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act establishes a program within the Department of Justice, in coordination with the VA, to provide grants, training, and technical assistance to help state, local, and tribal governments develop and maintain veteran treatment courts. Currently, these programs are supported by dedicated individuals in law enforcement, the judicial system, the legal community, VA officials, Veterans Service Organizations, and other community organizations.

The bill would provide federal resources for the establishment of new treatment courts. The first veterans treatment court was established in Buffalo, New York in 2008. Since that time, additional courts have been successfully adopted in state and local courts throughout Florida and the nation.  In 2013, Florida's 6th Judicial Circuit Court created a veterans unit to address the unique needs of those in Pinellas and Pasco counties, home to over 130,000 veterans.

The legislation currently has the support of more than 100 members of Congress from both parties. It also has received the support of American Legion, AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans, National Military & Veterans Alliance, American Logistics Association, American Military Society, American and Navy Union of the USA, American Retiree Association, Armed Forces Retirees Association, Association of the US Navy, Military Order of Foreign Wars, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Military Order of World Wars, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, The Flag and General Officers Network, The Independence Fund, The Retired Enlisted Association, Society of Military Widows, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Catholic War Veterans.

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